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Feb 8, 2021

Graduated Kenan Scholars Return to Give Current Scholars Advice

A Zoom reunion! On Thursday, January 28, Kenan Scholars from the classes of 2019 and 2020 came together to share updates with the current classes of Kenan Scholars on life post-graduation and offer advice on getting through everything from research to job hunting in these uncharted times.

From practicing mindfulness meditation to reading to biking, scholars—graduates and current—shared what has kept them busy during quarantine. Senior Deanna Upchurch shared that she has been cooking more since quarantine and class of 2019’s Varun Amesur shared that he has gotten into investing during the quarantine.

After getting reacquainted with the scholars, Kenan Scholars program graduates shared their advice based on what they’ve learned so far in the working world.

Ryan Herron, a class of 2020 graduate, encouraged scholars to take advantage of the resources and opportunities that the program provides. Whether it be the Raleigh day trip or guest speakers or research workshops, Herron urged students to attend all events they could as it can have a big impact on post-grad life. Emily Arnold, also a class of 2020 graduate, echoed Herron’s statement and added that UNC provides great resources that the real world doesn’t. Both Kenan Scholar alums highlighted the program’s resource tool kit as one of the best resources to take advantage of while scholars have access to it.

Our alums also highlighted what it is like to work in the middle of a pandemic. As recent graduates, Herron and Arnold have primarily experienced the work field while working from home. Arnold highlighted that working from home means it’s harder to pick up the skills needed for the job, so being a good learner is essential in the current atmosphere. Herron also said that it is important to set aside time to talk with your team about things outside of work. This, he said, makes it easier to make connections with coworkers despite not being with them everyday.

Scholars also got candid about the difficulties of transitioning from the academic environment to the workforce. Amesur noted that the hardest part of the transition is that post-graduation work is more autonomous, which can be difficult to get used to since undergrad life provides a lot of structure and deadlines. Class of 2019 graduate Elizabeth Berry mentioned that her biggest surprise was how much work she was leading on her own. Because of this, she noted that it is important for scholars to be driven and to not sit back and wait for direction.

However, class of 2019 graduate Matt Bravante reminded scholars that while the prospect of going into the real world may seem intimidating, it isn’t. Just like when you work with a team on assignments in school, he said, the workforce is also a team of people working together to accomplish a goal. Class of 2019 graduate Jordan Moreno echoed Matt’s statement and shared that, having been in the workforce for a couple of years, she can look around, enjoy her job and be curious. Way to go!

For more information on alumni programming, including how to connect with alum or ways to support them, please contact Dr. Lingmei_Howell@unc.edu

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